Great Train Robbery

The twin brothers, Roy and Ray D'Autremont, emerge from the courthouse in Jacksonville

The following, is a condensed version of an article from the Medford Mail Tribune on the 75th anniversary of the
"Last Great Train Robbery of the West"

By Paul Fattig

ASHLAND -- An old wreath over the north portal of Tunnel No. 13 at the Siskiyou Summit is the only visible reminder of the deadly crime...
here is the story of the events on Oct.11 1923

...After a short stay in Chicago, trying to join up with big-time mob's during the roaring 20's, the brothers returned to Southern Oregon where they began studying shipments on Southern Pacific trains. After all, the train through the Rogue Valley still carried the nickname of the "Gold Special" because it once hauled large quantities of gold from the mines.
They had heard rumors that it would be hauling up to a half million dollars in gold as well as a shipment of cash on Oct. 11.

The D'Autremonts included twins Ray and Roy, both 23 at the time of the crime, and their teenage brother, Hugh. Before the crime, Ray served time in a Washington state prison for labor union activity. During that time, he came up with a plan to make his family rich.

The twins, who recruited their younger brother, picked the 3,107-foot-long Tunnel No. 13 because it would be easy to hop aboard the train as it labored slowly to reach the crest of the summit. Railway regulations required the engineer to test the brakes at the top of the pass by bringing the southbound train to a near stop just north of the tunnel.

The brothers studied the site, and established a hideout a couple of miles from the tunnel. They also stole explosives from a construction site in northern Oregon.
On the day of the crime, Roy and Hugh jumped on the train. Ray waited at the other end of the tunnel with the dynamite.

After scrambling up on the baggage car, the two brothers climbed over the tender and jumped down into the engine cab. Hugh ordered engineer Sidney Bates to stop the train near the south end of the tunnel.
The twins packed the dynamite against one end of the mail car containing the mail clerk. The blast ripped open the entire end of the car, killing the clerk and sitting fire to the railroad car.
The brothers couldn't see into the car because of the smoke and dust. And they couldn't get the train moved out of the tunnel because of the mangled car.

The second man to die was brakeman Coyle Johnson, who had walked through the thick smoke in the tunnel, startling the brothers. Ray, carrying a shotgun, and Hugh, armed with a .45 semiautomatic, shot Johnson.
Perhaps angry over not finding any money or gold, perhaps afraid of leaving witnesses, the brothers then shot to death railroad fireman Marvin Seng and engineer Bates.

They fled into the woods, prompting a massive manhunt that included the federal government, Oregon National Guard troops, local posses and angry railroad workers. But the brothers laid low, then slipped through the dragnet.
It wouldn't be until 1927 that Hugh was caught while serving in the Far East in the military. An Army buddy recognized his face on a wanted poster and turned him in for the reward. The twins were arrested a short time later in Ohio.

back to
History index page

[ Home ][ info ][ Prototype ][ Model ][ Park ][ History ][ Live Steam ][ Links ]

this story was taken from the archives of the Medford Mail Tribune
and they hold to it